Commerce Secretary Wants Closer Economic Ties With China as Beijing Flies Warplanes Over Taiwan

Gina Raimondo says ‘robust commercial engagement’ with Communist regime is ‘just an economic fact’

Gina Raimondo
Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo / Getty Images

Jack Beyrer • September 24, 2021 2:10 pm

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo called Friday for closer business ties with China even as Beijing increases its military muster.

“It’s just an economic fact” that the United States must trade with China, Raimondo told the Wall Street Journal. “I actually think robust commercial engagement will help to mitigate any potential tensions.”

Raimondo also said that climate-change cooperation with China may prove “fruitful” for the United States. Biden climate czar John Kerry, whom Chinese officials in September relegated to a Zoom conference as they met in person with Taliban leaders, has made similar comments. As commerce secretary, Raimondo plays a vital role in managing international trade, including with Chinese companies often flagged for national security concerns.

National security experts panned Raimondo’s call as out of touch with reality.

“The Commerce Department hasn’t adjusted to a world where China is a serious rival to the U.S. and is heading to a slow-motion clash with Congress,” said Derek Scissors, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Raimondo’s call for increased cooperation with China comes as the Communist regime increases its aggressive military posturing. China on Thursday sent another 24 warplanes into Taiwanese airspace, one of the largest incursions in two years. Beijing has also significantly altered its messaging on Taiwan during the Biden administration. Chinese state media in September threatened “military measures” after reports broke that the United States would recognize the island democracy as “Taiwan” instead of “Taipei.”

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Universal Studios Beijing draws eager throngs amid uneasy U.S.-China ties

FILE PHOTO: Chinese national flag flutters next to a flag of Universal Beijing Resort, ahead of the resort’s opening in Beijing, China, August 27, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo

September 20, 2021

By Martin Quin Pollard

BEIJING (Reuters) -Universal Studios’ Beijing resort opened its doors to the public on Monday after a two-decade wait, including delays because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The highly anticipated opening takes place amid U.S.-China relations that have deteriorated in recent years.

The park will be U.S.-based Universal’s largest and its fifth globally. It is also a first for Beijing, which lacks a big branded theme park to rival the Disney resorts in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

And, it will be the first Universal park with a section dedicated to the movie “Kung Fu Panda” and includes an area based on the Harry Potter franchise, which is popular in China.

Amid light rain and tight security on Monday, a public holiday in China to mark the Mid-Autumn Festival, a steady stream of umbrella-wielding visitors entered the resort.

“When it comes to Universal Studios, we’re all big fans of Marvel movies,” said 27-year-old Beijing resident Pi Tiantian, who visited the park on Monday.

“We really want to experience this resort. This one here also really likes Harry Potter,” she added, pointing to a young male companion.

One Universal Studios employee told Reuters that visitor numbers were being capped at around 10,000 for Monday because of the pandemic but the park has the capacity for many more.

All 10,000 tickets for the opening, available in a pre-sale on Sept. 14, were sold out in three minutes, according to Group.

“This is a rare time in a long while when an America-themed topic has attracted such obvious and widespread praise in China,” the Global Times, a nationalistic tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily, wrote last week.

Beijing-based visitors snatched 40% of the tickets for the first month, while the cities of Tianjin and Shanghai were the second- and third-largest sources of patrons, according to travel website

Still, many buyers complained on social media about ticket costs, which range from 418 yuan ($64.76) in the low season to 748 yuan during peak periods.

The resort was proposed 20 years ago by the Beijing Tourism Group, according to the official China Daily, and is 30% owned by Comcast Corp’s Universal Parks & Resorts and 70% by state-owned Beijing Shouhuan Cultural Tourism Investment.

The new Chinese ambassador to Washington, Qin Gang, likened the park’s rollercoaster ride to ties between the two countries.

“After all the tumbling and shakes, the rollercoaster came to a soft landing in the end,” he tweeted on Sept. 14.

Universal Studios announced the development of the resort in 2014 at an estimated cost of $3.3 billion. In 2017, Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts said the park could provide $1 billion of operating cash flow per year once open.

The park is estimated to earn more than 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) a year in revenue with up to 12 million visits, according to state-run Beijing Daily.

($1 = 6.4549 yuan)

(Additional reporting by Sophie Yu in Beijing and Chen Aizhu in Singapore; additional writing by Tom Daly; Editing by Tony Munroe, Christian Schmollinger and Bernadette Baum)

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With tighter grip, Beijing sends message to Hong Kong tycoons: fall in line

FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, chairman of CK Hutchison Holdings, meets journalists as he formally retires after the company’s Annual General Meeting in Hong Kong, China May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

September 17, 2021

By Clare Jim and Farah Master

HONG KONG (Reuters) – As Beijing seeks to tighten its grip over Hong Kong, it has a new mandate for the city’s powerful property tycoons: pour resources and influence into backing Beijing’s interests, and help solve a potentially destabilising housing shortage.

Chinese officials delivered the message in closed meetings this year amid broader efforts to bring the city to heel under a sweeping national security law and make it more “patriotic,” according to three major developers and a Hong Kong government adviser familiar with the talks.

“The rules of the game have changed,” they were told, according to a source close to mainland officials, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. Beijing is no longer willing to tolerate “monopoly behaviour,” the source added.

For Hong Kong’s biggest property firms, that would be a big shift. The companies have long exerted outsized power under the city’s hybrid political system, helping choose its leaders, shaping government policies, and reaping the benefits of a land auction system that kept supply tight and property prices among the world’s highest.

The sprawling businesses of the four major developers, CK Asset, Henderson Land Development, Sun Hung Kai Properties and New World Development, extend their influence even further into society. For example, the empire of Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing of CK Assets, includes property, supermarkets, pharmacies and utilities.

Because the tycoons are so deeply intertwined with the city’s economy and politics, it would be difficult for Beijing to sideline them completely, said CY Leung, former Hong Kong leader and now a vice-chairman of China’s top advisory body.

“They are a major component of our political and economic ecosystem, so we need to be careful,” Leung told Reuters. “I think we need to be judicious with what we do and not throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

INFLECTION POINT Some Chinese officials and state media have blamed tycoons for failing to prevent anti-government protests in 2019 that they say were rooted in sky-high property prices.

The protests, joined by millions of all ages and social strata, demanded greater democracy and less meddling by Beijing in Hong Kong, which had been promised wide-ranging freedoms until 2047.

The new directives mark an inflection point in the power play between Beijing and the tycoons, who once held kingmaking sway in Hong Kong’s political leadership race.

“Now the focus is on contribution to the country; this is not what the traditional business sector in Hong Kong is used to,” said Raymond Tsoi, chairman of Asia Property Holdings (HK) and a member of the advisory group Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Shanxi Committee.

In March, Beijing made sweeping electoral changes. In a new election committee, responsible for choosing the next leader of Hong Kong and some of its lawmakers, a greater “patriotic” force has emerged, while many of the prominent tycoons, including Li, 93, will be absent for the first time since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hong Kong’s Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said the new election committee would be more broadly representative of Hong Kong, going beyond the vested interests of specific sectors, specific districts and specific groups, which it called “inadequacies” in the system.

The source close to Chinese government officials told Reuters a team in the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the Liaison Office (HKMAO) had sought to curtail the influence of groups perceived to have done little for Beijing’s interests in the city.

HKMAO and the Liaison Office did not respond to requests for comment.

Sun Hung Kai said it was confident about the future of Hong Kong and would continue to invest there and in mainland cities. Henderson Land and New World Development declined to comment, while CK Holdings did not respond to request for comment. Li did not respond to a request for comment.


Developers have already taken measures to show the message was received.

New World and Henderson Land have donated rural land as reserves for social housing. In recent weeks, Nan Fung Group, Sun Hung Kai, Henderson Land and Wheelock applied for a public-private partnership scheme, the first applications since the programme was launched in May 2020.

The programme offers developers an opportunity to build on a higher percentage of open land, but they must use at least 70% of the extra floor area for public housing. Several told Reuters last year that the programme was unattractive because there were many restrictions and a risk of higher costs.

“Beijing is not telling us what to do, but saying you need to solve this problem,” Hopewell Holdings’ Gordon Wu told Reuters, adding that “it won’t be impatient but it will give you pressure.”

Another developer source, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Chinese officials had laid out expectations, but no strategy or deadline.

“We can continue our businesses as long as we give back more to society,” said the source, a senior official at a top developer in Hong Kong. The sector needs to step up efforts to ease the housing shortage, he added.

Most of the developers have published statements and newspaper advertisements, along with other Chinese corporations, to support the national security legislation and electoral changes.

Critics of the moves said they crushed democratic dreams, while authorities said they were necessary to restore stability after the 2019 demonstrations.

Adrian Cheng, 41, who took over as chief executive of New World, founded by his grandfather, told Reuters late last year the company needs to become more relevant to society, especially in a new environment where firms have to carefully balance the interests of various parties.

“It’s not easy. I have a lot of grey hair you can’t see,” Cheng said.

(Additional reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Gerry Doyle)

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Beijing calls new U.S.-U.K.-Australian alliance ‘irresponsible’

China’s communist government served up relatively mild criticism Thursday of the announced tripartite security pact between the United States, Australia and Britain.

President Biden unveiled the new alliance, dubbed “AUKUS,” for Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S., Wednesday at the White House. It includes joint development of eight nuclear-powered attack submarines for the Australian navy, which currently has none.

A Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman denounced the new alliance while Chinese state media suggested Canberra could become the target of a Chinese nuclear strike for joining with the United States and Britain in deploying nuclear-powered submarines.

The proposed alliance “has seriously undermined regional peace and stability, intensified the arms race and undermined international non-proliferation efforts,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing. Exporting sensitive nuclear submarine technology is part of a “geopolitical game” and “is extremely irresponsible,” Mr. Zhao said.

The Global Times, the Chinese Communist Party-affiliated newspaper, said the new arrangement “will potentially make Australia a target of a nuclear strike if a nuclear war breaks out.”

The newspaper quoted a Chinese military expert as saying nuclear-powered submarines are used to “launch a second-round nuclear strike in a nuclear war.”

The new security pact does not include nuclear arms for Australia. Instead, it involves creating an infrastructure and fuel for creating the nuclear power plants for submarines. Nuclear submarines are much more powerful than their diesel or electric counterparts. Nuclear propulsion allows for quieter operations — a key advantage in undersea warfare — and extended travel without having to come to the surface.

Nuclear submarines are also engaged in extensive intelligence-gathering and can be used to deploy special operations commandos.

No details of the type of submarines Australia will build although analysts say they likely will be variants of modern U.S. and British nuclear-powered fast attack submarines and could be deployed by the year 2040.

The Navy’s Virginia-class submarine fires both torpedoes and Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles. Britain’s Astute-class nuclear attack submarines also fire both torpedoes and cruise missiles. Virginia-class submarines also will be equipped with more advanced weapons in the future, such as lasers, and will be capable of launching undersea mines.

The security cooperation comes amid increasing regional clashes over China’s assertive military and sovereignty claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea, along with growing military tensions with Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its territory and has vowed to retake by force if necessary someday.

Miles Yu, a former China policymaker at the State Department, said the new security arrangement is a significant step in confronting the China challenge in the region.

“The Chinese Communist Party is beginning to realize the real magnitude of its strategic miscalculations as the AUKUS deal is the first concrete action jointly taken by two NATO countries and two Asia-Pacific countries,” Mr. Yu said. “It’s the jointness of this act, and the nature of this deal that could obviate the PLA’s march beyond the First Island Chain that makes Beijing shiver.”

China has been expanding its influence and power in the western Pacific and is seeking to dominate the strategic waterways stretching from the South China Sea north to the Sea of Japan, an area China calls the “First Island Chain.”

Fury in France    

The AUKUS grouping has also managed to anger other traditional U.S. allies, including European Union officials who said they were given no advance notice the pact was in the works.

The fury was particularly acute in Paris, where France will now lose out on a massive conventional, diesel-powered sub deal it had struck with Australia just five years ago.

The deal is “contrary to the letter and the spirit of the cooperation which prevailed between France and Australia, based on a relationship of political trust as on the development of an industrial and technological base of defense of very high level in Australia,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The new security cooperation is a major step in efforts by the Australian government to delink from China, which is Canberra’s biggest foreign market by far. In recent months, China has taken a series of retaliatory steps after the Australian government called for an international investigation into the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic that began in Wuhan.,

Extensive Chinese influence operations also were exposed in Australia over the past several years that led to new restrictions on Chinese investment and the resignation of an Australian member of parliament was covertly linked to the Chinese military.

China also has tried to punish Australia economically by blocking sales of Australian products in China like wine and seafood.

Senior Biden administration officials who briefed reporters on the new partnership said in addition to undersea warfare capabilities, the three militaries will work together on military-related artificial intelligence, quantum computing and cyber capabilities.

“This will be a sustained effort over many years to see how we can marry and merge some of our independent and individual capabilities into greater trilateral engagement as we go forward,” one of the officials said.

The only other time the United States has shared nuclear submarine technology took place with transfers of know-how to Britain nearly 70 years ago.

“This technology is extremely sensitive. This is, frankly, an exception to our policy in many respects,” the official said.

The three-way security partnership also appears to be aimed at counterbalancing Beijing’s bid to foster anti-U.S. alliances.

China has conducted military exercises with Russia and is a leader of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a China-led grouping of Central Asian nations that was holding its own 20th anniversary summit this week.

Mr. Zhao, the Chinese spokesman, said relevant states should “abandon the outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical perception, respect the will of the people of regional countries and do more to contribute to regional peace, stability and development.”

“Otherwise, they will only end up shooting themselves in the foot,” he said.

China uses the phrase Cold War mentality as code for anti-communism.

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China’s Zhao Wei spotted after gov’t erased her from web

One of China’s biggest movie stars who was mysteriously scrubbed from the internet last month has now surfaced back in her hometown.

Zhao Wei was spotted by fans at a mobile services provider store in Wuhu in eastern China on Tuesday, according to photos being widely shared online.

The 45-year-old, who is one of the country’s wealthiest and most beloved actresses, posed for photos with some fans.

It marks the first time Zhao has been spotted out in public since she was erased from the internet by the Chinese government on Aug. 26.

Beijing has refused to explain her sudden disappearance.

But it came amid a wider crackdown by the Community Party on the entertainment industry – or what it called “chaotic” celebrity fan culture.

On Tuesday, Zhao Wei was spotted at a mobile services provider by residents in her hometown of Wuhu.

Chinese video platforms have taken down films or TV shows that Zhao starred in or directed, citing “relevant laws and regulations”.

Her name has also been scrubbed from online casting lists.

Zhao Wei was spotted at a mobile services provider.
Zhao Wei is the latest celebrity to be targeted by the government, although it is not clear what she may have done.

In addition to acting, Zhao has directed a number of award-winning films and gained a huge social media following with 86 million fans on Chinese social media site Weibo throughout her career.

Her online disappearance has sparked fears that other celebrities will be inclined to embrace the Community Party’s regime.

It is unclear what, if anything, Zhao did that could have resulted in the government targeting her.

Zhao is just the latest Chinese celebrity or high-powered figure to be targeted by the government.

14 BLADES, (aka GAM YEE WAI, aka JIN YI WEI), Wei Zhao, 2010.
Zhao Wei is one of China’s wealthiest and most beloved actresses.
©Weinstein Company/Courtesy Eve

Actress Zheng Shuang became embroiled in a surrogacy controversy back in January. Soon after, Shanghai tax authorities started investigating her and then fined her 299 million yuan last month for tax evasion.

And entrepreneur Weihong “Whitney” Duan, who was once the poster woman for the Chinese dream, simply vanished on Sept. 5, 2017.

Her ex-husband Desmond Shum, who is living in exile in Great Britain with their son, now 13, has written a book about her disappearance called ‘Red Roulette: An insider’s story of wealth, power, corruption, and vengeance in today’s China’.

Shum still doesn’t know whether Whitney is languishing in one of the Party’s “black jails” or if she was secretly executed. 

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COVID Tyranny: Australia Adopts Facial-recognition Tracking as it Slouches Toward Beijing

One of the ironies of the China virus response is that it’s making Western nations far more like their main geopolitical rival, China. A case in point is that a system designed to track quarantined Australians — and requiring them to send the government a picture of their face and verify their location within 15 minutes of being randomly contacted — may be used nationally.

What’s more, one Australian politician proclaimed that his constituents should be “proud” that their region is the app’s testing ground. All this over a disease with an infection fatality rate not much different from the flu’s.

The Land Down Under…a Tyrannical COVID Jackboot

Unfortunately, this COVID-19-enabled government intrusion is just the iceberg’s tip and has even some liberals wondering how long Australia can continue in this vein and still call itself a free society. For example, as the left-wing Atlantic wrote last week:

In a bid to keep the coronavirus out of the country, Australia’s federal and state governments imposed draconian restrictions on its citizens. Prime Minister Scott Morrison knows that the burden is too heavy. “This is not a sustainable way to live in this country,” he recently declared. One prominent civil libertarian summed up the rules by lamenting, “We’ve never seen anything like this in our lifetimes.”

Up to now one of Earth’s freest societies, Australia has become a hermit continent. How long can a country maintain emergency restrictions on its citizens’ lives while still calling itself a liberal democracy?

Australia has been testing the limits.

Before 2020, the idea of Australia all but forbidding its citizens from leaving the country, a restriction associated with Communist regimes, was unthinkable. Today, it is a widely accepted policy. “Australia’s borders are currently closed and international travel from Australia remains strictly controlled to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” a government website declares. “International travel from Australia is only available if you are exempt or you have been granted an individual exemption.” The rule is enforced despite assurances on another government website, dedicated to setting forth Australia’s human-rights-treaty obligations, that the freedom to leave a country “cannot be made dependent on establishing a purpose or reason for leaving.”

The Atlantic also reports that the “nation’s high court [no indication what it’s high on, but power comes to mind] struck down a challenge to the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.” “It may be accepted that the travel restrictions are harsh,” the judges stated. “It may also be accepted that they intrude upon individual rights. But Parliament was aware of that.” 

Of course, part of courts’ purpose is to protect people from legislative overreach — from a rogue parliament — as opposed to just being a rubber stamp for it.

But truly Orwellian is that facial-recognition app. The Daily Caller reported on it last week:

The app, listed as Home Quarantine SA in app stores and unveiled by the South Australian government Aug. 23, uses geo-location and facial recognition software to track those quarantining themselves, South Australia Premier Steven Marshall told ABC News in an August interview. All South Australians ordered to quarantine must download the app.

The app ensures citizens comply with quarantine orders by contacting people at random and asking them to provide proof of their location within 15 minutes. Citizens then share their location with the government or provide “live face check-ins” to confirm they are at their “registered quarantine address,” according to the app’s description.

“We don’t tell them how often or when, on a random basis they have to reply within 15 minutes,” Marshall told ABC News.

Under South Australia’s current COVID-19 guidelines, health officials and law enforcement officers can direct citizens to quarantine in their homes or in “quarantine hotels” for 14 days. People who break quarantine face up to a $1,000 fine, according to the guidelines.

Individuals who miss their geolocation check-ins will receive a follow-up phone call where they will have to discuss why they missed the notification, and if they miss that, a “compliance officer” may visit their home….

What’s more, Marshall believes Australians should wear their chains happily. “I think every South Australian should feel pretty proud that we are the national pilot for the home-based quarantine app,” said he.

Furthermore, as the Financial Review tells us today, the Orwell app may go national (of course it will).

The kicker is that as The New American has repeatedly reported, SARS-CoV-2 has an overall infection fatality rate (IFR) of 0.20 percent or lower — and this can be reduced even further as coronavirus is highly treatable.

Some will say Australia’s restrictions are only temporary. But without massive public resistance, why would they be? First, as even the Atlantic points out, the China virus is now endemic. What the publication wrote early last year, that cold and flu season may become cold, flu, and COVID season, has become reality because the virus does what viruses always do: It mutates. So the China virus pretext will always exist.

Second, governments tend to do what they always do — that is, not relinquish already achieved power and control.

Third, even if COVID magically disappeared, there’d always be another emergency: Another virus (innumerable unknown pathogens exist and are just waiting to be released; in glaciers, for example), a major terrorist threat, or something else. And the precedent has been set — and precedents precede.  

So, ironically, China, which is becoming the world’s first panoptic (all-seeing) state and is trying feverishly to Sinicize the West, may not have to try that hard. For owing to how we’re losing our virtue and slouching towards Gomorrah, we’re also readily slouching towards Beijing.

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Didi denies reports that Beijing city is coordinating companies to invest in it

FILE PHOTO: A sign of Chinese ride-hailing service Didi is seen on its headquarters in Beijing, China July 5, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo

September 4, 2021

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s ride hailing giant Didi Global Inc said on Saturday that media reports that the Beijing city government is coordinating companies to invest in it are not correct.

“Didi is currently actively and fully cooperating with cybersecurity probe, foreign media reports that Beijing city government is coordinating companies to invest in it are incorrect,” it said on Weibo.

Bloomberg News reported on Friday, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter, that China’s capital city was considering taking Didi under state control and had proposed that government-run firms invest in it.

Under the preliminary proposal, some Beijing-based companies including Shouqi Group, part of the state-owned Beijing Tourism Group, would acquire a stake in Didi, Bloomberg reported.

Beijing-based Didi faces a cybersecurity investigation by Chinese authorities after its New York initial public offering in June. Chinese authorities have stepped up their regulation of technology firms in the past year to improve market competition, data handling and their treatment of employees.

Didi is controlled by the management team of co-founder Will Cheng and President Jean Liu. SoftBank Group Corp, Uber Technologies Inc and Alibaba are among investors in the company.

(Reporting by Yilei Sun and David Stanway; Editing by William Mallard)

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Despite Pandering to Beijing, Hollywood Share of China Box Office Nosedives

AP Images
Evening gala held on Tiananmen Square for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China

Hollywood’s former dominance of the Chinese box office is no more, with the communist nation’s own films overtaking a majority share of the market under policies by the regime that promote domestic films over foreign ones.

The share of American-made movies in China’s box office receipts has fallen to under 10%, the result of Beijing’s decision to block major Hollywood films from playing in Chinese movie theaters while bolstering movies produced by the country’s own studios.

Given that China has overtaken the United States as the world’s largest movie market, this spells trouble for the Hollywood movie mills. Ironically, the bad news for Hollywood comes even though American studios have recently made striking alterations to their films to please Chinese censors.

As an example, when the trailer for the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick was released last year, audiences noticed that the Taiwanese and Japanese patches missing from the jacket of Tom Cruise’s legendary character.

Why? In order to please the communist Chinese government and get their film into the market, the studio had to omit such references to two of Beijing’s territorial rivals.

And as film blogger Alex Hollings observes:

The 2012 remake of “Red Dawn” was, for most of us, a real disappointment. The beloved original depicted desperate teenagers fighting an enemy invasion in a very personal way — forgoing flag-waving patriotism for an understated kind many service members can truly appreciate: a quiet but steady resolve to protect one’s home. The remake lacked that insight… as well as a believable villain. The idea that North Korea could render American defenses useless and capture a large portion of the U.S. mainland seems laughable… but then, it was never supposed to be the North Koreans in the first place. The entire movie was filmed using China as the invaders.

After Chinese media voiced concerns about their nation’s depiction in the film, the studio panicked and hired not one, but five special effects companies to remove any sign that the invading force was Chinese, replacing all flags with North Korean ones.

But Hollywood’s efforts to get on the good side of the CCP have not performed well. Hollywood’s share of the China box office market has plummeted to just 9.5% so far this year, per data from consultancy group Artisan Gateway.

A decade ago, Hollywood held 8 of the 10 spots among China’s top-grossing movies. But in 2019 and 2020, that number went down to two per year. Last year, the lucky reels were Tenet and The Croods: A New Age. In 2019, only Avengers: Endgame and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw saw success.

Breitbart notes:

Chinese audiences are instead gravitating toward home-grown movies in larger numbers, lifting the time-traveling comedy Hi, Mom and the buddy-cop adventure Detective Chinatown 3 to blockbuster status. Meanwhile, recent Hollywood titles like Disney-Pixar’s Luca and Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon have failed to resonate with local audiences.

Even Universal’s dependable Fast & Furious franchise, which has been enormously popular in China, is showing signs of fatigue. The latest installment, F9, saw its China grosses plummet in the second week by a stunning 85 percent.

One way China is asserting greater control of its movie market is by blocking the release of American films. Disney has not enjoyed a Chinese release of any Marvel film since Avengers: Endgame. Other major pictures like Disney’s Jungle Cruise and Warner Bros.’ The Suicide Squad likewise have failed to get a release in China so far.

With a complete lack of self-awareness, Hollywood continually lashes out at traditional American values and asserts its “right” to promote anti-American and anti-Christian content, but has no qualms about censoring itself for the sake of the communists in Beijing.

And while China works to keep the U.S. out of its film market, America continues to say “yes” to a growing Chinese presence in our economy.

Recently, the Biden government recently gave Chinese telecom behemoth Huawei entry into the U.S. auto industry after President Trump rejected the advance. Officials at the Department of Commerce under Biden approved applications worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Huawei in order to purchase the chips for its auto business. Perhaps not surprisingly, Biden selected (and the Senate confirmed) Chris Fonzone, an attorney who worked as a lobbyist for Huawei, as the top lawyer in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Tragicomic; fitting, given the subject.

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Beijing Says Sino–US Cooperation on Afghanistan Conditional on Washington’s ‘Attitude Toward China’

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi on Aug. 29 said Washington’s “attitude toward China” would decide how the two countries would work together on Afghanistan, during a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

Yi not only set the condition for bilateral cooperation, but also accused the United States of “fighting terrorism selectively,” according to a statement published by the Chinese foreign ministry.

While the Chinese ministry’s statement detailed Yi’s demands for the United States, State Department spokesperson Ned Price issued a brief statement on the call.

Blinken and Yi spoke about “the importance of the international community holding the Taliban accountable for the public commitments they have made regarding the safe passage and freedom to travel for Afghans and foreign nationals.”

Price’s statement did not offer any other details about the call.

Yi said the U.S. attitude would be measured by its actions: Stop “smearing and attacking” Beijing and stop “undermining” China’s sovereignty. Additionally, Yi said that the United States “should take seriously” China’s “two lists” and “three bottom lines.” Doing what China said would bring bilateral ties “back on track” to meet Beijing’s wishes, Yi added.

It’s unclear what smearing and attacks Yi was referring to. In July, the Chinese regime also accused Western journalists of “smearing China” after they published reports critical of Chinese policies on local floods. The accusation, promoted through China’s state-run media, resulted in Chinese citizens harassing and threatening Western reporters covering the disaster on the ground.

Meanwhile, Chinese state-controlled media have been publishing their own negative reports about the United States, such as labeling America as an unreliable partner given its chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Beijing handed the lists and three demands to the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, when she traveled to China in late July to meet with Yi and his deputy Xie Feng. One of the lists asked the United States to correct its “wrongdoings,” including revoking U.S. sanctions on Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials.

United States Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (L) and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi sit together in Tianjin, China, on July 26, 2021. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo)

One of the demands requires that the United States not “interfere” in the Chinese Communist Party’s management of issues in the troubled regions of  Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong. Many Western governments, including the United States, have called out China for its human rights violations in the three regions, particularly over the detention of over a million Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

The communist regime has turned Sherman’s China visit—as well as the March meeting in Alaska when Yi and China’s foreign policy official Yang Jiechi dressed down Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan—into a propaganda coup.

It was the second talk between Blinken and Yi over Afghanistan this month. According to the State Department, Blinken and Yi talked about the “security situation” in Afghanistan during the earlier call on Aug. 16 after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban.

During that call, Yi said China was ready to “have communication and dialogue” with the United States on issues related to Afghanistan, but he criticized the swift U.S. withdrawal as having a “severely adverse impact” on the war-torn nation, according to China’s foreign ministry.

It remains to be seen how much China would actually benefit from a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

“I’m not sure that China is actually going to benefit because Beijing now has to do something that it’s never done before, which is to manage a very difficult security situation outside his borders,” said Gordon Chang, author of “The Coming Collapse of China,” during a recent EpochTV webinar.

Aside from Afghanistan, Yi also accused U.S. intelligence officials of “cooking up” their report on the origins of the CCP virus, during the latest call with Blinken, according to the Chinese statement. He also demanded that the United States stop “politicizing” tracing the origin of the virus.

The U.S. intelligence report, which was released on Aug. 27, stated that it couldn’t come to a conclusive assessment about the pandemic’s origins, given China’s refusal to cooperate.

The CCP virus originated in China’s central city of Wuhan. The report concluded the virus could have either come from an infected animal or a “laboratory-associated incident.”

China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), home to one of China’s highest-level biosafety P4 laboratories, has been under scrutiny for being the source of the virus. U.S., Canadian, and French funding to the lab for controversial gain-of-function research has also come under scrutiny.

A State Department fact sheet released in January stated it had reason to believe that “several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.”

Frank Fang

Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a Master’s degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.

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U.S. calls on Beijing to release sources held for posting information on COVID-19 pandemic

The U.S. State Department has shown concern over Chinese citizens who have been detained for releasing information to the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times related to the pandemic and called for Beijing to stop its efforts to crack down on truthful and accurate reporting in China.

“The United States calls on the PRC [People’s Republic of China] government to release journalists and their contacts detained for their reporting on COVID-19 restrictions and to cease its efforts to silence those who seek to report the truth,” according to a State Department spokesperson in an email to The Epoch Times.

“We consistently underscore the importance of independent, transparent, and fact-based reporting on COVID-19,” the spokesperson added.

The immediate issue concerns 11 individuals, all of whom are part of the Falun Gong, a faith-based group in China that has long opposed the Communist Chinese government and suffered persecution as a result. They were indicted in April, according to their lawyers, accused of “taking photos and uploading them to overseas websites between February and June 2020,” the Epoch Times reported.The Epoch Times was reportedly the recipient of the uploaded photos, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a press freedom watchdog based in New York. 

China has consistently attempted to control information coming out of the country related to the pandemic, including their knowledge about its origins, their “harsh lockdown policies and true infection and death toll figures,” according to the outlet. 

One example cited by the Epoch Times involved citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, “who posted videos on social media detailing the toll of the outbreak from Wuhan” and was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Zhan is reported to weigh less than 90 pounds, in part due to a partial hunger strike she has waged since her imprisonment. 

“A free and independent media, including citizen journalists, is essential to making government more accountable, keeping all of us safer from future outbreaks and possible pandemics,” the State Department spokesperson said.

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